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A shinplaster (Canadian 25¢ banknote), 1923


shin +‎ plaster.
Probably coined during the American War of Independence (1775–1783). Named for its resemblance to, and suitability for makeshift use as, a bandage for dressing the shin.[1][2]


shinplaster (plural shinplasters)

  1. (historical, US, Australia, , and New Zealand informal) An essentially worthless note of paper money.[2]
  2. (historical, Canada informal) A 25¢ banknote.[2]


  • 1860, John Russell Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States, Third Edition, Boston: Little, Brown and Company; London: Trübner and Company, SHI — SHO, p402,
    Shinplaster. A cant term for a bank-note or any paper money, and especially such as has depreciated in value. The term is said to have arisen during the Revolutionary war. After the continental currency had become almost worthless, an old soldier who possessed a quantity of it, which he could not get rid of, very philosophically made use of it as plasters to a wounded leg.
     The people may whistle for protection, and put up with what shinplaster rags they can get. — N. Y. Tribune, Dec. 3, 1845.
              What’s become of all the specie —
               Where are all the dollars gone !
              Nothing but shinplasters greasy
               Do our meagre pockets own. — Comic Song.
     Hope’s brightest visions absquatulate with their golden promises before the least cloud of disappointment, and leave not a shinplaster behind. — Dow’s Sermons, Vol. I. p. 309.
  • 1892, William Shepard Walsh, Handy-book of Literary Curiosities, J.B. Lippincott Co., p245,
    Now, this means a plaster, and the word plaster or shinplaster is a well-known slang term for a paper dollar, used especially during the Revolutionary and…
  • 1970, James Henry Gray, The Boy from Winnipeg, Macmillan of Canada, p108{1} & {2}
    {1}I had never heard of a 50-cent shinplaster. We got lots of the little 25-cent paper…
    {2}“My God, boy, this is no shinplaster, this is a fifty-dollar bill!”
  • 1988, Henry Clay, The Papers of Henry Clay, The University Press of Kentucky; ISBN 0813100593 (10), ISBN 978-0813100593 (13), p167,
    Remark in Senate, March 27, 1838. Reports that the people of Hampshire County, Va. (W.Va.), hearing it denied that one of the local mail-route contractors was “deluging the country with shinplasters [Remark in Senate, March 5, 1838],” have sent him one such shinplaster with the request that it be referred to the Committee on Finance to support the allegation in their petition. Clay so moves. Motion carried. Cong. Globe, 25 Cong., 2 Sess., 268. See ibid., 214; Remark in Senate, March 5, 1838. The shinplaster in question, signed by Lucius W. Stockton, the local mail contractor, was for 25 cents and was good only for local stage fare.


  1. ^ 1860, John Russell Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States, p402.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2004, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.